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Understanding Quality Links

Posted on July 02, 2007 by Steven Bradley

Guest post by Steven Bradley of TheVanBlog

You know you need to get links back to your site, but what kind of links should you be looking for? Not all links are created equal and some will help your site a lot more than others. In some cases a single high quality link can be worth hundreds or even thousands of low quality links. The goal of link building isn’t simply to get more links, but rather to get more of the right kind of links. So how do you recognize a quality link?

Quality can be hard to define as it’s somewhat subjective. A link that may be considered high quality for one site might not be considered the same high quality link for another site on a different subject. In some cases it can also be very difficult to look at two links and absolutely say one link is better than the other. There are, however some general guidelines you can follow to determine the relative worth of links.

General Guidelines for Quality Links

One very general guideline is that the harder a link is to get the more value it likely carries. Think of a link from the Yahoo director vs one from a directory with an automatic submission process. You can get a link to the latter just by filling out a form and clicking the submit button. To get a link from the Yahoo directory you first need to shell out $299 for a review and then have an editor judge your site as worthy of inclusion. If you were a search engine which link would you value more?

While it can be hard to assign absolutes to the value of a link there are some signs of quality you can look for in a link.

  1. Links from related or topical sites – A link from a page on the same topic as your page should be worth more than a link from a page on a different topic.
  2. Links from trusted sites – The more trusted the source of a link, the more trusted the link.
  3. One way inbound links (IBLs) – If two pages exchange links it raises questions if the links are honest recommendations or if the exchange was made to only to increase the links for each sites. One way links help to lessen the possible manipulation in the eyes of a search engine.
  4. Links from authority sites – If you were looking for advice on buying a bicycle who’s advice would you sooner take? Lance Armstrong or a neighbor who you’ve never seen on a bike?
  5. Links that can be crawled – If a spider can’t crawl and follow the link it may as well not be there as far as the search engine is conscerned.
  6. Links with relevant anchor text – Using keywords and phrases in the anchor text of a link greatly impacts how a page ranks for those particular keywords and phrases.
  7. Links that can send direct traffic – Not every link has to be about search engines. If you can get a link from a page that receives thousands of visitors daily get the link. Remember the reason you want search traffic in the first place is because search engines can deliver targeted traffic. If a link can deliver that traffic directly don’t worry how it affects search results.
  8. Links to deep pages – You don’t want all your links pointing to your home page. That’s not natural and could be seen as sign that there’s little beyond the home page worth looking at.
  9. Links that are contextual – Links embedded in the content area of a page are seen as more relevant. If a link to your site is found in the middle of a paragraph of text it’s more likely seen as a genuine vote for that page than a link surrounded by other links in the footer or the sidebar.
  10. Links that have aged – A link you get today will carry more weight a year from now. Look for links that will still be there in the months and years to come.

You won’t find all of the above signs in every link, though it would be great if you did. The idea is to try to look for links with as many of the above as you can. If the New York Times will only link to your home page you still want the link. If you sell hiking boots and a site that sells camping equipment will link to you only if you link back it might still be a very good link. If the authority site in your industry will give you a link in their sidebar it’s still a link you want.

Additional Thoughts on Link Building

One thing you may have noticed is that I didn’t mention PageRank as an indicator of quality. When Google first rose to prominence quality links were all about PageRank. Unfortunately PageRank was easier to manipulate than Google would have liked and over the years they have reduced the weight of PageRank in favor of things like trust, authority, and relevance. PR is still in the algorithm, but PageRank isn’t nearly as important as it once was and chasing after PageRank is the wrong way to build links. All things being equal I’d sooner have the higher PR link, but all things are seldom if ever equal. It’s ok to use PR as a quick measure of a page, but you’re much better off focusing on the signs of quality above.

You can also find potential pages where you can get a quality link by asking the search engines. Type the phrase you’re targeting into a search engine and see what pages are returned. The search engine has just told you which pages they consider the most important for the keywords you just typed and it stands to reason if that page linked to yours it would probably carry a lot of weight for those keywords especially if the link also included some of the other signs above.

Another thought when it comes to link building is to take the search engine out of the picture while you’re evaluating a potential link. It’s important to see the big picture beyond SEO Would you still want that link if there was no such thing as a search engine? If the answer is ‘yes’ then it’s probably a good link. If you think a person viewing a page would be interested in your site and would click on a link to your site then it’s a good page to have link to you. Ironically when you take search engines out of the picture you often find the links they value most.

Over the next few days I’ll take a look at some common link building tactics such as article marketing and link exchanges and add the idea of quality to offer a better version of the tactic. You can use these quality tactics to build links that will have a much greater impact in improving how your pages rank in search results.

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11 Responses to “Understanding Quality Links”

  1. The Green Fairy

    - 2nd Jul, 07 04:07pm

    On most blogs, I am not a fan of guest bloggers at all, but I have to say that this was a very well thought out and useful post. Kudos to Steven for a great contribution 😉

  2. Tim Schroeder

    - 2nd Jul, 07 10:07pm

    Nice post Steve! I’m currently sitting in Bryant Park in New York City as I write this comment. I look forward to reading your other guest posts while I’m away.

  3. Steven Bradley (author comment)

    - 3rd Jul, 07 12:07am

    Thanks for the compliments. I do try to take guest blogging seriously. I’ve seen some good and bad guest posts on blogs. In fact a few blogs that are now on my daily reading list first came to my attention when they guest blogged on another blog I read. Of course I’ve seen some bad ones too where it was obvious the person writing post something less than their ‘A’ material.

    Hopefully tomorrow’s post will go over well too.

  4. SEO Brighton

    - 18th Mar, 09 07:03am

    Excellent idea for copywriting, copywriting is the best search engine marketing, rich content for keywords information is useful to all.

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